Raising East New York: The effect of poverty on the family unit

Social documentary photographer Phyllis Dooney challenges the stereotype of the deadbeat dad.

In “Raising East New York” photographer Phyllis Dooney challenges the idea of an absent father figure within familial life. In a little-known Brooklyn neighbourhood, East New York, poverty and crime are rife. To explore the effect of these circumstances on family and domestic life, Dooney created a series of portraits.

Speaking to Narratively, Dooney explained that she used camera obscura to capture the shift between outside life and inside life. “Camera obscura is the phenomenon of light that led to the invention of the camera – it is photography at its most basic. Light waves travel through a hole and land on the opposite plane, in this case, the walls, upside down.To create the projections, I blacked out windows and light sources, and cut a hole where the light could come through.”

“The effect is such that the neighbourhood and the streets are literally projected onto the walls of the subject’s home. Traffic and walking pedestrians could be seen on the ceiling, and in one case, the elevated subway was moving along the walls. The juxtaposition of the outside scene pouring into the interiors is a live metaphor to contemplate how one’s environment affects the intimate spaces of domestic life, relationships and fatherhood,” she was quoted as saying.

The series is enhanced in audio recordings that explore love, fatherhood, childhood, and the associated challenges in a neighbourhood like East New York.

This series first appeared on Narratively. See more here.